Hari-katha Articles The Rules of Morality and Selfish Unselfishness

The Rules of Morality and Selfish Unselfishness

Now we will consider the ordinary activities of persons who follow the
philosophy of Materialism. They say: “Even though there is no God, no soul, and
no afterlife, human beings should still follow the rules of morality. By acting
morally one will attain happiness in this life, and by acting immorally one will be
placed in a fearful situation. These immoral activities are also called sins. If one
acts selflessly to make others happy, one’s own happiness will spontaneously
follow. Therefore one should follow the principles of morality. One should follow
morality and cast sins far away, for sins bring only troubles and sufferings. Nature
always has its own laws. Therefore, since every being is a part of nature, every
being must follow nature’s laws. Philosophers should try to discover the laws that
govern the material world. Pious happiness is the highest good attained in this
life. To attain one’s own happiness one should diligently try to discover and
follow nature’s laws.

If you say, “After death I will exist no longer. Why should I renounce my own unbridled pleasure and follow the rules of morality?”, then I reply: Your actions are not in vain. Even after your death they will not stop bringing results to others. After your death the actions you performed in your life will bring various results to various people in the world. If you married and begat children, gave your children and education and taught them about morality, then
your actions will bring results enjoyed by many people. If you earn money and
build schools, hostels for travelers, roads, bathing places, and other like things,
then many people will enjoy the results of your actions. If you say, “The results of
those actions will quickly perish,” then I reply: “Why should you not act? Your
actions will never perish. When they are mature, actions have a very wonderful
power. In the future these actions will become very powerful. They will make this
endless world a very exalted place. Therefore one should act without selfish
motives.”

The philosophy of materialism collapses of its own accord. It is like a house
without a foundation or walls. No one will follow a religion without hope or fear
for what will happen in the afterlife. As their very name shows, the followers of
the philosophy of selfish material pleasures are all selfish. Indeed, the followers of
the philosophy of unselfish material pleasures are in truth selfish also. It is not
possible to follow the idea of unselfish material pleasures for long. Writing under
the pen name Mirabond, the philosopher Holbach wrote a book, “System of
Nature” in the year 1770. In that book he wrote, “Unselfishness does not exist in
this world. I say a good faith is one where one becomes happy by others’
happiness.” I see it that way also. Unselfish materialism has no meaning. It is like
a flower imagined to float in the sky. Unselfishness is merely a way to attain one’s
own happiness and freedom from troubles.

One thinks, “If people hear I am unselfish, they will trust me. Then I will easily attain my ends.” A mother’s love, brother’s love, friendship, and the love of a man and a woman: Are these unselfish? If they do not bring one’s own personal happiness, these kinds of
“love” do not last. To attain spiritual bliss at the end, some people pass their
whole lives in renunciation. Every religion and philosophy is based on
selfishness. Love of God is also selfish. It is everyone’s nature to be selfish. The
very phrase “one’s own nature” hints at selfishness. Selfishness is natural.
Unselfishness is very unnatural. Therefore it is never truly seen. Without the hope
of future life and future happiness, no one would perform any action. Persons of
purified intelligence are not attracted to Jaimini’s apurva philosophy or the life-force
philosophy of some western thinkers. Anyone who follows these
philosophies becomes cheated. In India even the smarta-panditas who quote
Jaimini’s apurva philosophy in their writing all believe in God’s grace and in a
blissful existence in a spiritual world. If they knew the truth, that Jaimini’s apurva
philosophy is opposed even to God’s existence, they would at once turn their
backs on Jaimini and his ideas. Jaimini knew well that belief in God naturally
stays in the hearts of human beings. Therefore in his apurva philosophy he
carefully and cunningly crafted an imaginary God who bestows the results of
actions.

Thus concealed under the cloak of belief in God, the atheistic karma-mimamsa
philosophy preached by the smarta-panditas has a strong following in
India. One person’s self interest often conflicts with another person’s self interest.
When a person of average intelligence hears the word “unselfishness”, he becomes
attracted, for he thinks that by following the philosophy of unselfishness his own
desires will be fulfilled. That is another reason the philosophy of atheistic
materialism has become widespread. How the preacher of the philosophy of
unselfish material pleasure induces his followers to act morally in the world is not
easily understood. Pushed by their own selfish desires, people may act morally for
some time, but when they think it over, they will eventually sin. They will say to
themselves: “0 my brother, don’t stay away from sense pleasures. Enjoy sense
pleasures as you like, as long as others do not know of them. Why not? I do not
think the world will collapse because of them. There is no God, an all-seeing God
who gives to us the results of our actions. What have you to fear? Just be a little
careful, so no one will know. If they learn of it, then you will lose your good
reputation, and perhaps the government or bad people will make trouble for you.
If that happens neither you nor others will be happy.” Know for certain that if the
hearts of the preachers of atheistic morality were examined, these thoughts would
be found.

One day a smarta-pandita prescribed the candrayana-vrata and other
harsh penances to a person who had asked him about the atonement for a certain
sin. Hearing this, the person said, “0 Bhattacarya Mahasaya, if I must perform a
candrayana-vrata for killing that spider, then your son, who was also implicated in
that act, must also perform that penance.” Seeing this would be a great calamity
for his son, the Bhattacarya Mahasaya turned two or four more pages in his big
book and said, “Aha. I made a mistake. Now I see. The books says: A dead spider
is only a piece of rag.” That being the case, you need not perform any atonement
at all.” The atheist smarta-panditas are like that. They accept the worship of God
only to promote their atheist philosophy. If sometimes they accept the ideas if an
afterlife and of a God who gives the results of actions, they accept these two ideas
only a subordinate parts of their karma philosophy. True devotion (bhakti) to
God is never seen in their ideas. It is seen that what is the beginning is
unselfishness gradually turns into selfishness.

To prevent this from happening some atheist karma-mimamsa philosophers accept the existence of a single all-knowing God who gives the results of actions. They then quote many passages from scripture to show how the worship of God is a part of the karma-mimamsa
philosophy. In this way they accept an imaginary God. Comte, fearing that
morality would not be taken seriously, imagined a God that would be considered
real. Comte was more honest. Jaimini was more farsighted. Comte’s trickery
was caught, and therefore his idea of imaginary worship of God never attracted
many followers. Jaimini had a deeper understanding, and therefore his karma-mimamsa
philosophy did gain wide acceptance in the smarta-pandita community.

In the end Comte and Jaimini held the same philosophy. If one examines the
ideas and activities of the smarta-panditas, one will see that the karma-mimamsa
philosophy is untenable. Why is it not tenable? It is not tenable because it will
never bring true auspiciousness to human society. Secularism, Positivism, or
smarta karma-mimamsa have no power to uproot sins. Rather, for many days they
will make many great obstacles to stop true pure devotion (bhakti) to God,
devotion that is the true purifier of sins. Time after time the karma-mimamsa
philosophy tells devotion to God: “I am your follower. I make people qualified to
follow you. I purify the sinful people and place them at your feet.” These words
are only cheating. They are not sincere. True karma (pious action) is devotional
service to God. As long as karma continues to call itself “karma” it is not a part of
devotional service. When it is truly a part of devotional service, karma calls itself
by the name “bhakti”. As long as it calls itself by the name “karma”, karma is a
rival of devotional service and it always tries to make itself more important than
devotional service. Karma claims that it helps philosophy, civilization, and art.
However, when karma becomes transformed into bhakti, then philosophy,
civilization, and art become much more glorious and exalted. In this place I will
not discuss this in more detail.

Excerpted from Tattva-viveka of Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Text 12

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Recitation of the Spotless Purana – 12 June 1996

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